Women have no monopoly when it comes to sexual assault. The US Justice Department tells us that approximately 20% of sexual assault victims are male.
Dr. Paul wrote to me about a year ago. He was searching for answers for his wife who’d been badly deceived by her ex husband. She suffered terrible trauma and he wanted to help her recover…. or so he thought at the time. But over that year, their relationship became less bearable as he learned that emotional pain can wound so deeply, it can change a person’s character and turn them into an ogre…… even women.
Men have an especially difficult time coming forward in sex crimes. Facing up to victimization is contrary to their self perception and laddened with the possibility of ridicule. I’m extremely grateful for Dr. Paul’s story and hope it helps other men heal.
When I met my wife she seemed to be a professional with solid Midwestern values. She described how she had married a man who’d deceived her: on the outside he was a nice guy but then she experienced his use of cocaine and 15 years of his adultery, emotional and sexual abuse, rape and psychopathic lying. She described him as a Jekyll and Hyde. In my eyes, she was a poor victim and worthy of my love, and my heart went out to her.
In the first year of our marriage I observed my wife’s alcoholism, her use of psychotropic drugs, driving while under the influence, and sexual advances toward other men while we were in public. She was so sexually violent and aggressive, she would choke me and I would suffer marks, cuts and I would vomit. I knew there was a serious problem.
I learned that she had suffered dreadful sexual abuse at the hands of her older brother who got her drunk and arranged “hookups” with his friends. She needed to “normalize” perversion in her mind in order to survive it. And that mindset did not change over the next 30+ years.
Attempts at healing
I believed through Christ’s grace and my love, she could be healed, so I prioritized daily actions that included professional and spiritual counseling, AA/Celibate Recovery……anything that could enable her to heal and recover. Her deep seeded trauma caused her to lash out at me mentally and physically. She was a gas-lighting expert who perfected sexual and financial abuse.
For years I debated about calling the police, but in the end I’d cover up and protect her. I discovered that the correct term for my behavior was “trauma or betrayal bonding.” As a Christian man, I thought I was simply extending “grace.”
I contacted the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN,) and learned, through their professional guidance, that I have Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS). This condition effects most rape survivors no matter how mentally stable they were prior to their exposure to rape and does not constitute a mental disorder or illness.
The devastation of rape
Rape is, by its very nature, designed to produce psychological trauma, and it did. Through the elements of surprise and the threat of injury, my wife was able to profane the most private aspects of my person and render me utterly helpless. Society gets nowhere in our understanding of Rape Trauma Syndrome if we think of rape as simply being “unwanted sex”. Like combat veterans suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), rape survivors experience similar symptoms on a physical, behavioral and psychological level. I experienced:
- Shock, nausea and vomiting
- Tension and intense – ice pick like – headaches
- Sleep disturbances. Difficulty sleeping through the night
- Avoiding anything that reminds me of the rape
- Becoming overly reactive and easily upset
- Relationship problems with family and friends
- Gynophobia: Fear of sex, loss of interest in sex and loss of sexual pleasure.
- Increased showering: 3 – 4 times per day.
- Denial: Behaving as if the rape didn’t occur
- Increased fear and anxiety
- Humiliation and shame
- Self-blame about whether I deserved the sexual abuse
- Feelings of contamination
- Rumination- Constant thoughts about the rape
- Flashbacks to the rape: reliving the feelings
- Nightmares of rape
The trauma of rape is often compounded by the myths, prejudices and stigma associated with rape. While I’m sure all rape victims suffer, males who have internalized these myths have an extra burden in fending off feelings of guilt and shame. This burden can be overwhelming especially if the people they come into contact with reinforce those myths and prejudices. Being shamed by others for being raped is an injustice in itself. Even my aggressor consistently defended her actions by telling me I deserved her abuse.
It is never a survivor’s fault for being raped. No one asks to be raped or deserves to be raped. Rape is never okay! Sexual exploitation is never okay!
Facing the painful truth
Today I admit, the RAINN professionals were correct – my efforts to rescue my wife were well intended, even valiant. My efforts to provide her with grace and help her stop being an abuser were foolish as I continually placed myself at risk. In the end, as I tirelessly fought for her trauma healing, she betrayed and gas-lighted me, making me question my memories, perceptions, and sanity.
I’ve moved on in my new life. I’m a healing survivor of sexual assault. As a Christian, just as Jesus forgave us, I forgive her. And I dedicate my life to being an ambassador, using education and testimony to combat sexual exploitation.
No matter whether you’re male or female, you can help conquer sexual assault. Watch my TEDx Talk, “like” and share it with everyone you know! I’m happy to report that Dr. Paul is reaching out to legislators in his state to enact the definition of consent my TEDx Talk contains, and shut down rape mentality for now and forever! Will your state be next? It’s up to YOU!